Gatto’s Bill to Address Hit and Run Epidemic Clears Public Safety Committee

Assemblyman Mike Gatto

Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s bill to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California cleared its first legislative hurdle today, passing the Assembly Public Safety committee by a unanimous vote of 7-0.  The legislation, AB 184, provides an additional tool to law enforcement officers investigating hit-and-run offenses by extending the statute of limitations for such offenses to three years from the date of the offense, or one year after a possible suspect is identified by law enforcement, whichever is later.

Currently, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply “run down the clock” to avoid any liability whatsoever.  If a motorist is not identified (which is often very difficult) within three years, the motorist cannot be prosecuted.  The Legislature has passed similar changes to statutes of limitations for crimes with hard-to-identify perpetrators, like clergy abuse.

Los Angeles’s problems with hit-and-run accidents were evinced recently by a series of high-profile accidents in Gatto’s district.  Just one month after Gatto introduced the legislation, Damien Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while riding his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter mile, down Interstate 5.  The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs.

“Damien Kevitt is just one of thousands hit-and-run victims who suffer life-threatening injuries annually,” said Gatto.  “Allowing the perpetrators to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries.  AB 184 will allow victims and law enforcement to obtain justice.”

Eric Bruins, Planning & Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions that result in death or serious bodily injury.  “It’s hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk, when our streets are treated like the Wild West,” said Bruins.  “The LA County Bicycle Coalition commends Assemblyman Gatto for bringing attention to this issue and giving hit-and-run victims hope that their perpetrators might be brought to justice once identified.”

“This is a relatively easy and sensible fix to the law,” said Gatto.  “Presuming my bill becomes law, my hope is that people who would otherwise flee the scene of an accident realize that they can be prosecuted, no matter how long it takes.”

AB 184 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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